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Light & Goo: 3D Printing 100 Times Faster

Futurity reports on a stunning new 3D printing process developed by researchers at the University of Michigan.  Apparently, it is 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes.

The limitation of 3D printing techniques utilizing layer-by-layer technology is that it “hasn’t been able to fill the gap on typical production timescales of a week or two.”  As University of Michigan Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Timothy Scott, who co-led the team of researchers explains: “using conventional approaches, that’s not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines.”

Until now, that is…

The team’s new 3D printing method involves solidifying “liquid resin using two lights to control where the resin hardens – and where it stays fluid.  This enables the team to solidify the resin in more sophisticated patterns.  They can make a 3D bas-relief in a single shot rather than in a series of 1D lines or 2D cross-sections.  Their printing demonstrations include a lattice, a toy boat, and a block M.”

By avoiding further solidification, “thicker resins – potentially with strengthening powder additives – can produce more durable objects.  The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers.”

“The key to success is the chemistry of the resin.  In conventional systems, there is only one reaction.  A photoactivator hardens the resin wherever light shines.  In the new system, there is also a photoinhibitor, which responds to a different wavelength of light.  Rather than merely controlling solidification in a 2D plane, as current vat-printing techniques do, the team can pattern the two kinds of light to harden the resin at essentially any 3D place near the illumination window.”

The team has subsequently filed three patents for this innovative 3D printing process.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Futurity

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